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BMW's Anti-Minivan

Any auto lover knows that the exact opposite of a family minivan is a convertible roadster. If the minivan is a symbol of slow-lane practicality, then the two-seater flies the flag of hair-blowing, because-I-can freedom. That grand pooh-bah of sportscar fun, BMW, released the Z3 in 1995, and it should have been the roadster of our escapist dreams. But there was a problem: Its soft lines could have gotten it voted Ultimate Gift for a Mistress. Hardly a ride for a rebel or a CEO. The Z4, launched in 2002, was a happy update stylistically, though it lacked the guts to really ignite road-burning passion.

But glorious days are finally here, as BMW's performance-tuning division has had its way with the Z4, releasing the M Roadster in time for summer. It's outfitted with a stiffer suspension, revised front and rear fascias, eighteen-inch wheels and—oh, yeah—the M3's 330-horsepower engine (compared with the base Z4's 215). This power plant is 3.2 liters of fury that will send the rear wheels barking and the car and anyone fortunate enough to be driving it to 60 m.p.h. in under five seconds. The interior of the Z4 M also hits all the right notes: This may be a roadster but it's still a BMW, and a comfortable enough place to be seated in stop-and-go traffic. With a convertible two-seater finally worthy of the BMW name, everything is right again. Note to minivan drivers: Steer clear.

Scorecard: BMW Z4 M Roadster

Base Price: $51,300
Engine: 3.2-liter 6-cylinder
Horsepower: 330
Torque: 262 pound-feet
Weight: 3,197 pounds
Zero to 60 MPH: 4.9 seconds

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